Smarter Than the Average Bear

Six-mile stretch of Appalachian Trail closed due to clever and hungry bear

You know that bringing food inside your tent in bear country is a big no-no and since you’re so responsible, BACKPACKER reader, you also are well-versed in the skills necessary to hang a bear bag, right? Well, if you’re hiking sections of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, all this outdoor know-how may not be enough to deter a certain hungry bear.

Numerous AT hikers have reported a black bear that will stop at nothing to get a good ol’ human meal, including chewing through ropes suspending bear bags and stealing backpacks full of tasty treats. It’s become such a problem that the Forest Service has closed a 6-mile stretch of the AT between Neels Gap and Tesnatee Gap to overnight camping in order to discourage the bear.

Rangers hope that by taking away the bear’s food supply, it’ll eventually get hungry and move on to getting dinner the old fashioned way, leaving hikers and their grub alone. If you’ve seen your share of Sunday morning Yogi cartoons, however, you know that nothing stands in the way of bears getting their paws on some “pic-a-nic baskets!” The bear will most likely find different campsites down the trail to rummage for some snacks, a problem that may also surface if it’s relocated.

Two years ago, rangers had to resort to euthanasia for a bear that was approaching hikers on the AT and trying to scare them into dropping their treat-laden packs. In order to assure this doesn’t happen to the current hungry bear, hikers should keep in mind several things about hiking in bear country:

  • Get your bear bag hanging skills down cold before you go (check out our step-by step article or video).
  • Buy and learn how to use a bear canister, your best line of defense against a determined bear.
  • If you do find a black bear rummaging through your camp, make loud noises and back away slowly like Shannon Davis does in our video on how to survive a bear attack.

For the sake of our furry and famished friends, be responsible in the backcountry. And keep your fingers crossed this bear doesn’t share his snacking skills with his friends.

—Morgan Keys

Bear prompts partial closing on Appalachian Trail (Gainesville Times)

Image credit: jepoirrier (via Flickr)